Monday, February 06, 2012

DIY Grand Jury Prizes

It is now time to present my favorite documentary films at Sundance this year.  I didn't see all of them, so please accept my sincere apologies if you're not on the list because I didn't see your film.  I'm sure all the Sundance docs were superb, but these are the ones that made me the most pissed off, most inspired, and just made me glad to be alive.

Drumroll please.....

My top 3 in no particular order were: Chasing Ice (Directed by Jeff Orlowski), Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry (Directed by Alison Klayman), and How to Survive a Plague (Directed by David France).

Read my Full Reviews of these films on subsequent blog posts.

The Jaron Prize for Best Music Doc goes to: Under African Skies: Joe Berlinger's new doc about Paul Simon's return to South Africa 25 years after recording Graceland.  I got the feeling that Joe needed to make a film like this after being so immersed in the grisly Paradise Lost saga for such a long time.  The film eloquently tells the story of the creation, legacy and controversy of one of my favorite albums of all time, Graceland.  Oh, and a little birdie told me there might just be a reunion tour.

Treat yourself to this clip from what looked like an epic concert in Harare, Zimbabawe, 1987.

The Jaron Prize for Best Short Subject Doc goes to: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom: Director Lucy Walker deservedly got another Oscar nomination for this poetic short film.  The film juxtaposes the larger than life, horrific destruction of the tsunami with the "metronome" of Japanese life, the Cherry Blossom.  With an imaginative score by Moby underlying melancholic tsunami stories, the film asks viewers to do what is not possible, to put ourselves in the shoes of these subjects who had their lives swept away by an instant act of nature at its most cruel. Yet, just as we can no longer bear it, the film saves us from this arduous emotional burden by focusing on an act of nature far less savage but no less stunning, the blossoming of this amazing flower.  We learn that the cherry blossom is the symbol of the Samurai warrior because it is equally graceful in life and in death.   As we see the flowers dying and getting blown away by the wind, the metaphor comes full circle, the music becomes more hopeful, more grandiose, and we get put into our proper place as humans, mere specks of life in a universe where there are many more questions than answers.

Official Trailer:

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